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Happy Holler-days! Why TV went crazy for rednecks

By Kate Storey

It seems that all a cable network needs for a hit show lately is some Southern accents and a little twangy, banjo background music.

The rural South is the hottest thing in TV right now, and it’s not Northerners gawking that account for the staggering ratings — it’s Southerners.

The Season 2 finale of “Duck Dynasty,” the A&E series about a Louisiana bayou family that owns a successful duck-call business, scored 6.5 million viewers, beating out broadcast competitors “The X Factor” and “Survivor.” Eight of the top-10 markets for the series were Southern cities. No. 1 was Knoxville, Tenn., No. 2 Birmingham, Ala.

According to digital-research firm Trendrr, 63 percent of the social-media conversation for “Duck Dynasty” happened in the South (which they defined as everything south of the Mason- Dixon and east of New Mexico).

The second-most-popular show on Facebook was “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” the TLC spinoff of “Toddlers and Tiaras” about a Georgia-based, 7-year-old beauty queen and her family that that has captivated the media. The young star’s catchphrase is, “You better redneckognize!”

Even shows that haven’t been snagging headlines and media coverage are scoring big, like Discovery’s “Moonshiners,” about the illegal alcohol businesses in Appalachia. The Season 2 premiere had more than 3 million viewers — comparable to an episode of AMC’s Emmy-winning “Mad Men.”

These shows, along with “Swamp People,” “Gator Boys” and “Rocket City Rednecks,” feature Southerners with big personalities, heavy accents and a close-knit family or business.

“I think these shows just strike a chord with Southern viewers,” says Brad Adgate, director of research at Horizon Media. “They’ve gotten really good at creating characters that viewers identify with.”

Despite the fact that more than a quarter of A&E’s current lineup is set down South, their executive vice president of programming, David McKillop, insists that is just a coincidence.

“In all of those cases, those are shows that were based on a very strong character — characters with character, so to speak. Maybe they’re more prevalent in the South,” McKillop says.

McKillop was involved with acquiring “Duck Dynasty” for A&E and “Swamp People” during his time at History — two juggernauts of the genre.

“It’s the families down there; people are attracted to that folksiness,” says McKillop of his two hits. “The South has always been known to have a reverence for the family.”

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